Monday, September 12, 2022

Man has Not Even an Illusion of Free Will

Here is a comment from a leftist-atheist-evolutionist blog. Somehow it keeps coming back to denying will.

I’ve never understood the idea, expressed by both compatibilists and incompatibilists, that “it feels like we have free will,” or that “we have the illusion of free will.” Never mind the fact that the concept of “free will” seems only to be found in W.E.I.R.D. cultures, and seems mostly tied to monotheistic theology; I find that my own lack of free will is powerfully salient in the manifest image. To me it feels like my thoughts, including decisions and choices, just appear in my brain. When I pay close attention, when I carefully observe what is actually going on, I get no sense whatsoever that I conjured up these thoughts. They seem thrust upon me and I sometimes even wish them away to no avail.

I don’t think I am alone here. There is plenty of evidence all throughout our language that everyone notices our complete lack of free will. “She made me laugh” or “he made me cry” or “I fell in love” or “it made me sad” or “I was overcome with joy.” Consider the extent to which all of your decisions and choices are based on what makes you laugh, cry, love, or become depressed. If you examine our language it appears that the reality of determinism, at least biological determinism, is more than just an accepted fact. It seems like everyone knows it with virtual certainty.

Consider the moment in the restaurant when you are looking at the menu and you’ve read all of the items but it still takes you a while to male a choice because you “can’t decide’ what you want. You are waiting for your determined unconscious to make that decision for you. If you had free will you’d decide right away. In this moment you should “feel” and notice your lack of free will. You shouldn’t need physics or biology to point it out to you.

When people say “we feel like we have free will” I don’t know what they mean. I don’t feel that way at all. To the extent that I ever felt like I had “free will” I would blame it on my W.E.I.R.D. upbringing and I would be thankful that I eventually noticed it wasn’t true and got over it.

I have also never understood any of the proposed downsides to accepting determinism. Life is like watching a movie or riding a rollercoaster. The fact that you are not driving takes nothing away from the thrill and meaning of the experience. Relax and enjoy the ride. Of course I know that you can’t just decide to relax and enjoy the ride, but I hope that me saying these things will help determined you to do just that.

St. Augustine was a great proponent of free will and while you might class his society as Western, it was not educated, industrialized, rich, or democratic.
It is amazing to me that he has no feeling of free will. Sam Harris says something similar.

On the last point, W.E.I.R.D. is a euphemism for White Christian culture. The claim is that other cultures do not appreciate free will. White Christians are the only ones who are fully conscious.

If he says he does not feel free will, then I believe him, but it is like saying he follows voices in his head. It is a symptom of schizophrenia.

Another comment:

I don’t think it’s quite right to call the Everettian (many-worlds) interpretation of quantum mechanics either pseudoscience or religion, even if it’s untestable in principle. A better term might be something along the lines of “coherent conjecture”, or “theoretical extrapolation”.

One associates pseudoscience with preposterous “theories” like astrology, psychokinesis, or clairvoyance. It’s neither accurate nor fair to put the many-worlds hypothesis in the same group. And it’s less appropriate still to equate it to religious beliefs, which tend to be even more preposterous.

Whether you agree with him or not, Sean Carroll can cogently explain why he thinks the many-worlds interpretation is a coherent and sensible inference, something that neither an astrologer nor the pope could do to defend their beliefs. That difference would be lost if we labeled Carroll’s position “pseudoscientific” or “religious”. One could even be induced to think him, in this respect at least, a charlatan or a religious nut, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

No, Sean M. Carroll cannot cogently explain many-worlds. I have heard him try, and there is nothing scientific at all. The more I listen to him, the more I am convinced that he has a fundamentally anti-scientific worldview.

Here is also a recent Michael Shermer interview of Sabine Hossenfelder, where she denies free will at the end.

1 comment:

  1. Roger,
    My questions about the multiverses are more psychological in nature. I am utterly mystified by how people who believe they are practicing science can entertain ideas which eschew all process.

    If one believes in the multiverse... one believes an entire other universe is created at every possible divergence of occurence. I have to assume these alternate universes are variations on our own and operate under similar constraints only because of the scarcity of any real explanations offered so far. Where is all the mass/energy for this alternative universe coming from? And how could these alternative universes even occur, as each and every one of them is fully formed from the moment of the divergence, there was no big bang so to speak to allow these other universes to evolve into their present state, they were born instantly fully formed from the brow of Zeus so to speak from the moment of the very divergence. This kind of spontaneous creation makes any religious creation myth I know of seem almost tame in comparison.

    How can one even entertain our universe really had a big bang or natural origin at all when other universes are believed to be created instantly from every possibility? Wouldn't it be presumptuous or at the very least improbable for us to think our own universe is not merely a byproduct of a divergence from some other universe?

    How can a person call themselves even remotely scientific if their explanation involves not only pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but an entire universe?